CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia men’s basketball Coach Tony Bennett shared pleasantries with Frank Beamer before Wednesday’s game against Virginia Tech. Bennett shook the hand of the Hokies’ legendary former football coach and inquired about his son. He was hoping he wouldn’t come to regret the exchange after the matchup.
“If they had beat us, I’d have been, ‘Oh, man, he’s won a lot of games here.’ Thankfully we were ready,” Bennett said following the ninth-ranked Cavaliers’ 71-48 rout of Virginia Tech.
Bennett need not have worried — his ninth-ranked Cavaliers certainly were ready, dominating from the start and moving within a half-game of North Carolina for first place in the ACC.
Wednesday’s matchup served as a reflection of both the Cavaliers and Hokies. Virginia (17-4, 7-2 ACC), playing as a top-10 team for the first time in nearly two months, got a lift from a rotating cast of scorers, and its defense played up to Bennett’s usual high bar.
Virginia Tech (16-6, 5-5), meanwhile, struggled in a sold-out John Paul Jones Arena, unable to shed the road troubles that have plagued it throughout conference play. Virginia Tech hasn’t won on the road against a top-10 team since an upset at No. 1 Wake Forest in 2009.
Virginia held the Hokies to 35.7 percent shooting from the field, including just 3 for 20 (15 percent) from three-point range.
“That’s how they play. It’s a credit to them,” Virginia Tech Coach Buzz Williams said of the Cavaliers’ defense. “The thing that hurt us most was our turnover rate was way too high in as slow of a game as that was. Twenty-two percent of the time we gave the ball to them without a shot, and that’s — mathematically, that’s incredibly hard to overcome.”
Virginia Tech had 14 turnovers to Virginia’s nine — and the Cavaliers’ final three came in the game’s last minute, when the outcome was long since decided. Virginia owned a 37-22 rebounding edge and allowed the Hokies just one field goal over the final 8:44. Senior guard Seth Allen was the only Virginia Tech player in double figures with 14 points.
On the other end, guard Devon Hall led three Cavaliers in double figures with 17 points and nine rebounds. Junior forward Isaiah Wilkins had 15 points and nine rebounds, and London Perrantes added 14 points.
“I like how he’s getting on the glass. A couple shots got blocked; otherwise, he was on his way to a double-double and maybe 20 and 10,” Bennett said of Hall. “He’s had to work to guard defensively, and his versatility or completeness is showing defensively and offensively. He did a good job [Sunday] against Villanova, was good tonight. A good Isaiah-Devon pair, when Isaiah was the five and Devon was the four. We’re getting nice play when our front line is in there.”
The Cavaliers opened with a 10-0 run and never looked back. The Hokies attempted four shots and had six turnovers in the first eight minutes as they struggled to keep up with the Cavaliers — and Wilkins in particular — on the floor and on rebounds.
The junior forward had 11 points at intermission on 5-for-5 shooting and six rebounds, including four offensive boards. Wilkins helped the Cavaliers out to a dominant 35-21 edge at halftime, and the Hokies never got the deficit into the single digits in the second half.